CIVICUS

MonitorbetaTracking civic space

Sierra Leone

Live rating: Obstructed

Last updated on 08.06.2018 at 08:47

Sierra Leone-Overview

Despite laws aimed at strengthening space for civil society in Sierra-Leone, events reveal that there remain several impediments to the full realisation of civic space rights.

read more

Latest Civicus alert

See all CIVICUS Alerts

from the news feed

view the news feed
March 2018 Elections Declared Mostly Peaceful

March 2018 Elections Declared Mostly Peaceful

The Carter Center released an election monitoring report declaring the electoral period largely peaceful.

Peaceful Assembly

In March 2018, the Carter Center released its observation mission report into Sierra Leone’s presidential, local council and parliamentary elections that took place on 7th March 2018. The opposition candidate Julius Maada Bio won the election after a re-run held on 5th April 2018. Samura Kamara, the candidate for the incumbent party lost with 48.19 percent of the vote compared to Bio’s 51.81 percent.

The report describes the campaign as “for the most part conducted in a peaceful manner” and as having “provided political parties an adequate opportunity to present their respective platforms to the general public”. The National Elections Commission and the Political Party Registration Committee played active roles to ensure that pre-election engagements by political parties were done within the confines of the law and with respect for good conduct in an enabling political environment. However, some incidents of violence by party supporters, and inaction by police in response, were reported after the first round of elections. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh who won a seat in west Freetown, said he had been attacked while campaigning and the police had not taken action against his assailants even after the took the suspect to the police station.

On the contrary, security forces demonstrated restraint during demonstrations after the first round of elections when Sierra Leone High Court lifted an injunction halting the presidential election run-off due to be held on 27th March. Following the court’s decision, supporters of the opposition presidential candidate who had assembled outside the court buildings, were allowed to express their jubilation without adverse interference from the police. 

Association

Article 26 of the Constitution provides for freedom of association.

Article 26 of the Constitution provides for freedom of association. NGOs must register with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and operate within the framework of revised NGO Policy Regulations from 2009. The regulations state that NGOs must renew their registration every two years; failure to do so results in termination of the organisation’s operations. Organisations are also subject to a requirement to report annually. Reports must including all projects implemented, donors’ details and other supervisory requirements. Human Rights Defenders face harassment, threats and intimidation, especially those working on land rights and corporate accountability.

Peaceful Assembly

Article 26 of Sierra Leone’s constitution provides for freedom of assembly; however it is regulated by the Public Order Act (POA) 1965 and the Police Act, 1964, laws which impose some limitations on this right.

Article 26 of Sierra Leone’s constitution provides for freedom of assembly; however it is regulated by the Public Order Act (POA) 1965 and the Police Act, 1964, laws which impose some limitations on this right. For any meeting of ten persons and above, a permit must be secured from the Commissioner of Police 48 hours before the meeting commences. To convene a public meeting anywhere within the provinces, the permission of the Paramount Chief of the Chiefdom must be sought in writing. Although, there is no reliable information on the number of requests to hold rallies that are denied, restrictions regarding public gathering or demonstrations are provided for in section 19 of the POA. Police have also used excessive force to disperse peaceful protests, especially during the state of emergency which was sparked by the Ebola crisis in 2015.

Expression

Freedom of expression is constitutionally protected in Sierra Leone.

Freedom of expression is constitutionally protected in Sierra Leone. However, legislative restrictions are still in place, for instance the Public Order Act which criminalises defamatory and seditious libel and the publication of false news. This legislation is used by the authorities to prosecute journalists critical of the government. Journalists who criticise the government are also are subject to intimidation and harassment and even detention. Although several newspapers are published in the country, all of the information is printed in English which limits proper access to information for the majority which does not speak or understand English. Since 2013, Sierra Leone has benefitted from an access to information law, however its proper implementation is still lacking. During the 2014 Ebola crisis, the government used powers granted by the state of emergency to silence and arrest journalists critical of government policies.